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Extended Audio Sample The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan, by Gregory Feifer Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (140 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Gregory Feifer Narrator: Robertson Dean Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a grueling debacle that has striking lessons for American foreign policy today. In The Great Gamble, Gregory Feifer examines the war from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground. During the last years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent some of its most elite troops to unfamiliar lands in Central Asia to fight a vaguely defined enemy, which eventually defeated their superior number with unconventional tactics. Although the Soviet leadership initially saw the invasion as a victory, many Russian soldiers came to view the war as a demoralizing and devastating defeat, the consequences of which had a substantial impact on the Soviet Union and its collapse. 

Feifer’s extensive research includes fascinating interviews with participants from both sides of the conflict. In gripping detail, he vividly depicts the invasion of a volatile country that no power has ever successfully conquered. Parallels between the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are impossible to ignore: Both conflicts were waged amid vague ideological rhetoric about freedom. Both were roundly condemned by the outside world for trying to impose their favored forms of government on countries with very different ways of life. And both seem destined to end on uncertain terms. The Great Gamble tells an unforgettable story full of drama, action, and political intrigue whose relevance in our own time is greater than ever.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Tracing the arc of the Soviets’ military disillusionment in Afghanistan, Feifer, who is an NPR reporter in Moscow, provides essential historical background to the present war in Afghanistan.”


  • “Feifer’s thoughtful, deliberative use of eyewitness testimony gives an intensely close-up sense of what the war was like for those who fought it.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “This is a provocative and important book, telling us what the Soviet military was thinking and feeling as it lost its war in Afghanistan. Gregory Feifer vividly shows that their campaigns there amounted to a manual of how not to do it.”

    Thomas Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by John | 2/20/2014

    " Great, short history of the Soviets in Afghanistan. Feifer identifies the major problems with the Soviet effort and why they pulled out in 1989. Much like the American experience in Vietnam, the Soviets spent a disparate amount of men and money on a country that they never were really able to control beyond the cities. The weakness of the DRA from the outset also hurt the entire effort. When Soviet funding ceased, the DRA's downfall was only a matter of time. Highly recommended, especially if you're interested in the ISAF experience and the future of Afghanistan after 2014. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Robert | 1/30/2014

    " A very good description of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. I learned many things about how not to fight a counter-insurgency. It was refreshing to hear the war through the eyes of the Soviet veterans who treated similarly to those returning from Vietnam. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jason Holderieath | 1/20/2014

    " I was vaguely familiar with the Afghan side of the story, this was my first exposure to the Russian side aside from an officemate. I loved the personal stories of the participants. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Michael | 1/11/2014

    " amazing, you could substitute USA for USSR and the book reads like current day, granted the USSR soldier's were far more ruthless than I our guys. REally good book. "

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About the Author

Gregory Feifer is the former Moscow correspondent for National Public Radio. He was educated at Harvard University and lives in Prague with his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Sebastian.